Off the Clock Injuries for Workers Comp
Getting injured on the job is stressful enough without having to worry if you’ll still qualify for workers’ compensation benefits if it happened outside of your scheduled work hours. Many employees have jobs that don’t follow a typical 9-to-5 schedule. So what protections exist if you get hurt off the clock?
What Is Workers’ Compensation?
Workers’ compensation provides benefits to employees who get injured while performing job duties. It covers:
Death benefits for surviving dependents
It also protects employers from lawsuits over work-related injuries. The tradeoff is that employees receive guaranteed benefits under workers’ comp, even if an injury wasn’t the employer’s fault.
This no-fault system is regulated by each state. In Minnesota, most employers are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance. Certain benefits may have caps depending on the severity of the injury.
Are Off-the-Clock Injuries Covered?
In general, being injured outside of your normal work hours does not automatically disqualify you from workers’ comp. What matters most is if you were doing work activities for your employer when the incident occurred.
There are two main factors looked at:
1. Work Premises
Getting injured on your employer’s property—even after your shift ends—often qualifies for workers’ comp. For example, if you slip and fall in the company parking lot on your way out after a late shift, that would likely be covered.
The same goes for traveling employees injured while staying in employer-provided lodging. Activities like working out at an onsite gym could also qualify if encouraged or required by your employer.
However, there are exceptions. Injuries from purely personal activities on work premises usually aren’t covered. For instance, if you trip over your untied shoelaces in the parking lot or get hurt playing basketball with co-workers after hours for fun.
2. Work Duties
Coverage also depends on if you were performing work duties at the time of injury—even if it was outside of normal work hours.
For example, if you’re expected to check emails after your shift and get injured at home while doing so, you’d likely qualify for workers’ comp. Or if you have to travel for work and get in a car accident on the way to the airport.
On the other hand, you probably wouldn’t be covered if you got hurt on a break doing something clearly not work-related.
Exceptions to the Rules
There are some exceptions where off-the-clock injuries could still qualify:
On-call employees: Getting hurt while responding to an emergency call or handling other work duties while on-call.
Coming and going rule: Injuries that happen while traveling to or from work generally aren’t covered. But exceptions apply if you’re on a special work errand for your employer.
Off-site lunch breaks: If you’re driving back from a lunch break and get in an accident, it may not qualify. But if your employer requires you to drive somewhere particular for lunch, it could count as a work errand.
Recreational activities: Getting injured while playing on a company softball team after work likely wouldn’t qualify. But if participation is required for your job, it could count as performing work duties.
Late shift departure: Getting injured while waiting around after a late shift for a ride or public transit could potentially qualify since the delay is due to your work schedule.
The line between personal and work activities isn’t always clear-cut. An experienced attorney can help assess if exceptions apply to your off-the-clock injury.
Steps to Take After an Off-the-Clock Injury
If you suffer an injury outside of your normal work hours, here are some steps to take:
Report it: Notify your supervisor right away, even if you don’t think it will qualify for workers’ comp. Prompt reporting helps demonstrate the injury is work-related.
Get medical care: Seek treatment and follow-up care as recommended by your doctor. Keep records of all appointments, tests, prescriptions, limitations/restrictions given, etc.
Document details: Write down exactly when, where and how the incident happened. Note any potential witnesses who could verify you were performing work duties. Save texts, emails or other evidence that could back up your claim.
Consult an attorney: An experienced workers comp lawyer understands the nuances of off-the-clock injury claims. They can help assemble evidence, negotiate with insurers and appeal any wrongful denials.
Fighting Improper Workers’ Comp Denials
Even with strong evidence that your off-the-clock injury qualifies, claims are sometimes unfairly denied. Common reasons include:
Misclassifying the incident as personal vs. work-related
Disputing whether you were performing employment duties
Claiming the injury didn’t occur on company premises
Alleging late injury reporting or lack of evidence
Don’t give up if your workers’ comp claim gets denied. An attorney experienced in fighting disputes can force reconsideration and get your deserved benefits. They may show how exceptions like on-call work or special errands apply in your case.
Appealing a denial is complex, with strict deadlines. Having legal representation maximizes your chances of success.
Steps in Appealing a Workers’ Comp Denial Include:
Reconsideration: Your attorney formally disputes the denial and requests reconsideration from the insurer, providing additional evidence as needed.
Mediation: If reconsideration fails, the next step is trying to resolve the dispute through mediation. If an agreement can’t be reached, the case typically proceeds to a hearing.
Formal hearing: Your workers comp lawyer presents evidence before a workers’ comp judge, submits legal arguments, cross-examines witnesses, etc. to fight for your benefits.
Appeals: If you lose at the hearing level, your attorney can appeal before the Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals and higher courts as needed.
Having an attorney at your side greatly improves the odds of navigating the appeals process successfully. Don’t let wrongful denials prevent you from getting the workers’ comp benefits you deserve.
Consult a Workers’ Comp Lawyer for a Free Case Review
Getting injured off the clock can create confusion over your eligibility for workers’ compensation. An experienced attorney understands the nuances of how exceptions may apply. They can help gather evidence demonstrating your injury is work-related and appeal any wrongful denials.
To discuss your situation in a free consultation, contact a dedicated workers’ comp lawyer today. We fight on your behalf to recover the maximum benefits you deserve.
1. Should I still report an off-the-clock injury?
Yes, you should report all work-related injuries as soon as possible, even if unsure about workers’ comp eligibility. Prompt reporting helps establish that the incident is tied to your employment and not personal activities.
2. Can I get workers’ comp if injured during a lunch break?
It depends. If you’re allowed to leave work and are injured running a personal errand over lunch, then probably not. But if hurt while driving to lunch in a location specifically directed by your employer, it may qualify as a work errand.
3. What if I was injured while not on the work premises?
You could still potentially get workers’ comp if engaged in work duties away from your normal workplace, like traveling for work or even checking emails from home after hours. The key is being in the course and scope of your employment when injured.
4. Can I get benefits if hurt while voluntarily working late?
Probably yes. Voluntarily working late doesn’t necessarily make injuries automatically ineligible. As long as you were still performing job duties when injured, extended hours generally don’t preclude workers’ comp coverage.
5. What if I was injured by an unsafe condition on my way out after a shift?
You may qualify for benefits if injured by a hazard on your employer’s premises, like a wet floor or unsafe stairs, even after clocking out. But you likely wouldn’t qualify if you weren’t paying attention and simply tripped over your own feet.